2012 Divisional Preview: New Orleans vs San Francisco

This is the first of four posts this week examining the Divisional matchups in the NFL Playoffs. Check back during the next few days for more previews:

After a poor 1-3 showing by me last week with my predictions, I’m doing it all again for the Divisional round. First up, the Saints visit the 49ers at 4:30 ET on Saturday on Fox. This is a huge matchup between two teams that both finished the year 13-3. New Orleans and San Francisco did not face each other this year so they’ll be working off game film entirely to prepare for Saturday. Here’s a look at the matchup:

Offense: The Saints have a lethal passing game with Drew Brees, who set an NFL record this year for passing yards in a season. Not much more needs to be said for New Orleans’s passing game: it’s tremendous. But the Saints’ running game is underrated with Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomsa offering different options in the backfield. New Orleans tore up the Detroit Lions last week, putting 45 points on the board against the Lions’ tough defense.

For the 49ers, quarterback Alex Smith is still young but he has the luxury of playing in a system where he’s not the focal point. Running back Frank Gore is one of the league’s best backs and ran for over 1200 yards this year and fumbling just twice all year. Smith threw just five interceptions as well as the 49ers excelled at not giving up the ball. However, while San Francisco did not turn the ball over often, it also gained only 311 yards per game, seventh worst in the league. Continue reading “2012 Divisional Preview: New Orleans vs San Francisco”

2012 Wild Card Preview: Detroit vs. New Orleans

This is the second of four posts this week examining the Wild Card matchups in the NFL Playoffs. Check back during the next few days for more previews:

The New Orleans Saints and Detroit Lions open up the NFC Wild Card games on Saturday at 8 ET on NBC in New Orleans. The Saints haven’t lost since week eight and has won by more than 20 points in its past three games. The Lions have won three of their last four, but gave up 45 points in a loss to the Green Bay Packers Sunday in a game that Aaron Rodgers didn’t play. In their one meeting this year, New Orleans defeated Detroit 31- 17 behind 342 yards and three touchdowns from Drew Brees. Here’s a look at the matchup:

Offense: For New Orleans, this is all about Drew Brees, who sent an NFL record with 5476 passing yards in the season and is neck and neck with Aaron Rodgers for the MVP award. While running back Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas combined to rush for just 1165 yards, they averaged nearly six yards a rush. Brees moved the ball around to his receivers, with Jimmy Graham and Marques Colston his favorite targets.

Detroit’s Matthew Stafford wasn’t too shabby either, throwing for more than 5000 yards as well and 41 touchdowns. Stafford looked to wide receiver Calvin Johnson the most as the two connected on 96 passes for 1681 yards and 16 touchdowns. On the ground, the Lions weren’t as effective as running backs Jahvid Best and Kevin Smith combined for just 746 yards, less than four yards a carry. Continue reading “2012 Wild Card Preview: Detroit vs. New Orleans”